The Office of President Eugene Cornacchia announced the morning of Oct. 12 that the school had received a generous donation of $10 million from real estate mogul and Saint Peter’s College alumnus Joseph Panepinto.
This news, however, arrives amid other concerns from students and staff alike regarding the university’s response to numerous other facilities issues. On Oct. 19, the community was notified that work would officially begin to clean Whelan and Gannon Halls, but that the buildings may not reopen until Nov. 19, leaving numerous STEM classes displaced for up to four weeks or more.
Nevertheless, the administration has no plans to use the donated money towards that particular issue. On their intentions to allocate the funds, Cornacchia’s email to the campus community stated generally:
“The University has long-term plans for significant investments in athletic facilities and the development of the West Campus.”
Unfortunately the official press release regarding the donation wasn’t exceptionally more detailed either, reading in part:
“The gift... will dramatically advance the development of the West Campus and make quality Jesuit education more accessible to its growing student body,” omitting any mention of the Department of Athletics at all.
Some students, however, believe there are better uses for the donated funds.
“I believe the money is needed the most for the Science Department,” said junior biology major Trisha Sookraj. “There is always missing lab equipment… [and] students always have to use alternative products in lab experiments.”
Others see the money as more necessary for the concerns of today, and less for the vision of tomorrow.
“I really hope they spend this $10 million to fix this mold situation,” commented Karyn Barrera, a sophomore resident on East Campus.
In an email interview, Cornacchia clarified many of the questions regarding the university’s strategy towards allocating Panepinto’s gift.
“The University has established long-term plans for the development of the West Campus,” he wrote, “which includes, among other things, significant renovations and upgrades for the University’s athletic facilities.”
In a previous interview with the Pauw Wow, Athletics Director Bryan Felt remarked that numerous complications with the facility itself have made several sports programs cost-prohibitive. The plan is to reimagine the R.L.C. to accommodate both athletes and non-athletes, including a new, open field space in place of the bubble.
Cornacchia also mentioned that the portion of the money not slated towards facilities projects will contribute to making an education at Saint Peter’s more affordable, meaning that it will likely go into the university’s scholarship fund, of which the vast majority of students here are beneficiaries.
“I’m here because my scholarship is seventy-five percent of my tuition,” commented sophomore Corey Sowinski.
It is the university’s hope that with additional money, more students can be given the opportunity to study with the help of scholarships. As for the mold issues in Whelan and Gannon, they are currently being managed by a professional staff, but do not require an allocation from the donation fund.
“Large philanthropic gifts such as Mr. Panepinto’s tend to be restricted to longer-term, visionary ambitions,” said Cornacchia. “It will not be utilized for mold remediation.”
And finally, to explain the administration’s rationing of the donation funds, Dr. Cornacchia wrote:
“Donor intent is a major factor in fundraising. Typically, significant philanthropic gifts tend to be allocated, at the donor’s discretion, to achieve visionary and transformational goals,” later citing Thomas MacMahon’s contribution to a previous capital campaign titled “Students at the Center.” That project culminated in the construction of the Student Center, MacMahon’s namesake, which has since changed the face of the university and the dynamics of campus life.
Panepinto’s donation is no different in the sense that its purpose was decided before it was finalized and announced to the community. However, now that this donation is helping to bring the current capital campaign to a close, this means that the university is poised to begin planning for the next step forward.
“Joe [Panepinto] is a dear friend and an extraordinary individual who has been an ardent supporter of Saint Peter’s University for more than 50 years,” concludes Cornacchia. “This historic gift is a bold endorsement of our vision for the University’s future. We believe it will galvanize the Saint Peter’s community to set and reach even more ambitious goals than we have in the past.”